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Interview with Coach Cari DuBois, Cal Women’s Gymnastics

December 10, 2010

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California magazine: These cuts had been mulled over for some time and the administration was clear that any program that wasn’t necessary to Pac-10 membership was a candidate for elimination. But did you take the possibility of your team getting cut seriously?

CD: I did take it very seriously until the chancellor’s committee came back with its report and it recommended not dropping any sports. Then I felt pretty safe. Even when I knew cuts were coming, I was hoping that women’s gymnastics wouldn’t be one of them, because we are part of the Pac-10 conference, and we have seven schools, counting Cal, competing in the conference, and with Utah, one of the top 3 programs in the country, joining next year, that was only going to make it that much stronger.

CM: So, with Utah, it will be seven schools in the Pac-12 competing in women’s gymnastics. How’s the sport doing nationally? Are other schools cutting teams?

CD: Well, there have been some on the chopping block. Cal State Fullerton was notified a year ago, but they were given the opportunity to fundraise and keep their sport vs. just getting word that they were dropped. And so far they’ve been able to keep their program up and running. And MIT dropped gymnastics a year or two ago. But it is one of the top-attended female sports in the NCAA. It’s also the number one Olympic sport in terms of viewing.

CM: So, all in all, it sounds a lot healthier than men’s gymnastics.

CD: Yes, there are many more women’s programs, and my concern is that since Cal, one of the top ten athletic departments in the country, cut gymnastics, it could cause a domino effect across the country, and I would hate to see that happen.

CM: So what’s next for you and the team? Have your athletes talked about what they’re going to do? Do you know what you’re going to do?

CD: Right now we’re focused on what we have control over and we’re working very hard. The whole team has become even closer. None of them at this point in time have a desire to go anywhere else. They love Cal, and so while I’ve had some interested calls from other programs, so far the ladies have all said no they’re not interested. For now, we’re fighting to try and reinstate the five programs. I think we can get out there and work together and raise enough money to reinstate these programs. That’s my goal at this point in time: to focus on my athletes and to focus on the effort of spreading the word and gathering all of the sports communities together to support our programs and help us reinstate them.

CM: And have you gotten any indication from the athletic department that that’s a possibility?

CD: We’ve been told that it’s possible. We haven’t been given a straight answer as to what we would need dollar-wise, but my goal is 20 million dollars by April or so. They’re telling us is that four million dollars is what the teams were costing the athletic department and in one meeting with the men’s and women’s teams, Sandy Barbour said she would want four years up front of that four million dollars. And then David Esquer, the baseball coach, was told it would take five years up front, so that’s $20 million. Which sounds like a lot of money, but with all the alums and with all of our gymnastics communities, if we can get 100,000 people in the entire country to donate 200 dollars, that’s $20 million. I’ve sent letters to alums, I’ve sent letters to donors, I have gone to gymnastics meets and been on the microphone and spoken to gym parents and young gymnasts out on the road. People don’t want to see Cal lose its program. I’ve had people write back, saying: “I’m not a Berkeley fan, but my club will pledge to donate a thousand dollars to help reinstate all five sports.” People just don’t want to see any of these sports dropped. That’s what Cal is all about. It’s an inclusive University, not an exclusive one.

CM: Do you have a figure for what it costs to operate your program?

CD: This year my operational budget is $109,000. It’s not very much, and I saved ten percent on my budget last year. So I’ve always come in under my budget, I’ve always been a team player in trying to do what I need to for my program and my athletes without being frivolous.

CM: Does that figure include scholarships?

CD: No, we have 12 in-state scholarships so 12 times basically 30,000 right now. So $360,000. So I would say we’re at $590,000 for operational budget with benefits and salaries and scholarships included.

CM: One of the criteria for cutting teams was competitiveness, and I’ve seen women’s gymnastics cited as a poor performer. Do you think that’s fair?

CD: I’ve been told in the past by the administration that they are not supporting me to be successful, and they know it. Compared to all the other schools with the Pac-10, which have full coaching staffs. I don’t. They have full in-state and out-of-state scholarship availability. I don’t. I’m not able to go out and recruit across the entire country, or even in the world, whereas most other universities have that capacity. My facilities are lacking as well in terms of training, safety, and recruiting.

I’ve looked up the history and I’m the coach that’s lasted the longest, this is my 9th season. I’ve had more Pac-10 wins than other coaches (laughs) even though I haven’t had a lot of them. So, you know, we’ve gone out there and done the very best we could with what we were given, but compared to the other schools we definitely have not been adequately funded and that’s been acknowledged by the administration to me.

CM: Have you heard that from Sandy Barbour herself?

CD: Yes. And I respect her for being honest. And I know these cuts are not something she wanted to do, but it’s what she’s had to do.

CM: Is there any resentment of the money that goes into the revenue sports?

CD: I wouldn’t say resentment because I understand you have to put money into the programs that are going to bring in the money. There are some things that I wonder you know, wow, couldn’t we have put that money into other programs? But I don’t resent it, I understand it, and yet at the same time it can be frustrating when you know that, at the same time that we’re cutting programs and taking away opportunities, we’re also spending hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on renovating offices.

CM: Are you talking about the High Performance Athletic Center?

CD: No, just upgrades that have been done in different buildings and that sort of thing. But it’s also upsetting about the High Performance Center. I was one of the coaches that bought into that project. I think it’s a great concept, but not at the expense of losing programs, not now that four programs that were supposed to be in that center are gone.

CM: Anything else you’d like to communicate about your program to alumni?

CD: Yeah, this has been devastating for my athletes. Competing in collegiate gymnastics is like the Olympics for these ladies. They’re not going on to the Olympics. And most high schools throughout the country don’t have gymnastics, so this is the one time when they get to represent, and take pride in being part of, a school. And you know it’s one thing when you decide to end your career on your terms, but when that opportunity is taken away from you, it’s really hard to understand.

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